Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Men's and Women's Gold Medal Soccer

Oh my gosh, will I stop talking about the Olympics already??? Geez, they've totally moved on to the Paralympic games in London, the regular Olympics is so yesterday.

But I would be remiss to not at least post pics from the men's and women's soccer matches we got to attend. We got to see the gold medal match for each, held at Wembley Stadium, which is not far from our flat.

I got lucky online with the men's tickets and the women's tickets were fairly easy to come by as women's soccer is really not a big deal in Europe. Sad, considering how huge men's soccer is, but true. We bought them right after the U.S. women beat Canada in the semi-finals and Brad scored us some pretty awesome seats. Front row of the second deck.

The women played Japan and it was a real nail biter. The Japanese women came very close to scoring several times and Hope Solo was the only reason they didn't. She was amazing, blocked anything coming her way.

Overall we both thought the U.S. women looked tired, though.... perhaps because the match with Canada was very long and they only had a day to rest in between. Or maybe they had all been in the Olympic Village hooking up, as Hope Solo discusses in her new book I Love to Promote Myself. At any rate, it was not the most enthusiastic the women's team had looked, but they were awesome nonetheless.

Since the medal ceremony was immediately following the match, the Canadian women were there, as they had won their bronze medal game earlier in the day. They walked around drinking beer while wearing what looked like extremely heavy track suits for a summer games.

The Japanese fans were very calm and courteous. After their team lost, almost all of them continued to sit so they could cheer their team when they were awarded the silver medal. This is the opposite of the men's Brazil fans, who collectively got up and left as soon as they figured out the gold wasn't going to happen.

Some of the Japanese fans were in traditional dress and Brad loved snapping their photos, even without permission. These two humored the silly American:
The U.S. women were obviously very excited when they won the gold. Their section of friends and family must have been on the deck right below ours because they kept coming back to our side of the stadium and waving. Which really, made for great photos!
On the flip side, after the game, the Japanese team cried. And cried and cried. It was heartbreaking. I wanted to hug them. But by the time they came out to receive their silver medals, they were all smiles and very gracious. I also observed that they all had roughly the same haircut.

With a large team like soccer, the medal ceremony got kinda boring. They hand everyone a medal and then go back and hand them a little bouquet. Lather, rinse, repeat. I think the only exciting part was when a bunch of people booed one of the men handing out the medals but we had no idea why.

Ok - I just googled. It was Sepp Blatter (what a name!) who is the president of FIFA and apparently has a real knack for making sexist, racist and derogatory statements. Sounds like a winner!

Anyways, medals awarded - yay! Moving on.

*Note: have not downloaded the men's match photos from Brad's camera, still in London. To be added later.

The men's match between Brazil and Mexico was a couple of days later and was a completely different atmosphere. While the women's match felt very calm and professional, the men's match was wild and raucous. Mariachi bands, Brazilian drum bands, chanting fans, body paint, singing - it was crazy. Even the food at the stadium was different. I was so excited there were nachos!

There were also vuvuzelas at this game, which are these 2 foot long plastic horns that make the most horrific sound. If you've ever watched the World Cup on TV, that's the reason there's a really annoying drone going on in the background - everyone is blowing on them. They are highly annoying and I hate them. I would like to break one over my knee for fun.

Before the game, I had only ever watched European soccer. This was my first Latin American game and Brad did his best to explain the difference. There's less teamwork and strategy when the Latin American teams play and more fancy tricks from individual players. It kind of felt like a jumbled mess, just passing between these individual players who would try something neat and that was it.

I also learned that for the men's Olympic teams, each country is only allowed 3 professional players per team. This obviously reduces the level of play with so many amateurs on the field. It would have been neat to see more professional players from each country.

One of the professionals on the Brazilian team (the one that actually scored) is named Hulk. Like one word, that's his name: Hulk. Brad said he might end up playing for Chelsea, though the season has already started so maybe not. I never really had an interest in getting a Chelsea jersey, but a jersey that says Hulk? I'll take it.

Fortunately for Brad, we ended up sitting next to another Londoner and his dad, visiting from Africa, who he could talk soccer with. I can't really do much more than observe, though I'm learning!

As I mentioned above, once Brazil figured out they weren't going to win, it was a mass exit. I could understand if this was for a cup of some sort, but they just won a silver medal!! But I can't criticize too hard - since we don't have a strong affiliation with either team, we got up and left too.

And so ended our Olympic experience. We were very fortunate and got to see a bit of everything we were hoping to see, with the exception of swimming. I can't imagine we would ever go to another Olympics, unless they somehow end up in Dallas, so I'm glad we made the most of it. And I really hope the souvenir shirts I guessed on and bought actually fit when I'm not pregnant!

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